Announced: March 1999
Release date: 10/26/2000 (U.S.)
Launch price: $299
Number of launch games: 26
The “future” of entertainment
By the time Sony was ready to show the sequel to its first console, the PlayStation brand had become a household name … but the PlayStation 2 wasn’t going to release for at least another year. Meanwhile, Nintendo was lagging behind with the Nintendo 64 (released in 1996), and Sega claimed it was already ushering in the next generation with the launch of the Dreamcast on 9/9/99.
One thing that the Dreamcast didn’t have, however, was a DVD player.The built-in DVD drive was a big selling point for the PS2 — the format was quickly taking over as the preferred movie-watching experience at home, with superior sound and picture quality (and tons of extras like audio commentaries) compared to VHS tapes. This also meant that developers could move on from making games on CD-ROMs and take advantage of the larger space in DVD discs.
In contrast, Nintendo stubbornly stuck by its cartridges and Sega relied on a combination of CDs and GD-ROMs (its own proprietary discs). With strong third-party support and backward compatibility with the PS1 library, Sony had more than enough weapons to take on the competition in the fall of 2000.
Above: From the Nov. 2000 issue of Official PlayStation Magazine: “You could download new tracks or cars for a Gran Turismo game, new quests for an adventure and so on. … it seems likely that the PS2 could be the hub of a digital ‘movies on demand’ system…”
Image Credit: Giancarlo Valdes/GamesBeat
Fun facts and broken promises:
- The PS2 suffered from a severe shortage at launch, since Sony was only able to ship half a million units to retailers by October 26. I always considered myself lucky in finding one three months later at a KB Toys store.
- Early information suggested that the PS2 would have a robust online experience with downloadable content and, as some speculated (pictured above), even movies on-demand. A network adapter and hard drive did eventually come out, but Sony’s actual broadband plans for it never lived up to the hype.
- In a March 2, 1999 press release, Sony touted that the PS2 was capable of producing “movie-quality 3D graphics in real time” with its Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesizer. This led some to surmise that PS2 games could look as good as Pixar’s Toy Story films.
- Perhaps the most memorable piece of marketing to come from the PS2 launch was the stylish commercial advertising a faux PlayStation 9 in the year 2078 (posted below). Good news: We’re only five more consoles away. Bad news: Most of us will probably be dead by then.